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Onam celebrations: Mahabali's sacrifice and colours of South India

Falling on 4th September in 2017, the annual festival of Onam is celebrated across Kerala during the months of August-September. The community rejoices the festivities with boat races, elephant processions, flower arrangements and folk dance

Onam Celebrations

Why is Onam celebrated?
It is believed that back in the times, Asura king Mahabali ruled over Kerala and the public was very fond of him.
His popularity made the gods feel threatened. They requested Lord Vishnu to help them contain Mahabali. Lord Vishnu took on the form of the dwarf Brahmin Vaman and made a visit to Mahabali. The king asked Vamana for his wish to which he asked for three paces of land.

Vamana then grew in stature covered the sky in his very first step. In his second step, he covered the netherworld. Since nothing remained for the final step, Mahabali offered his own head. Impressed by his devotion, Vamana blessed him the boon that he would be able to visit his people once a year, which is now celebrated as Onam.

When art meets flowers

An imperative ritual of this auspicious day includes making a flower rangoly outside the house. This is call "Pookkalam". With each passing day of the festival, a new alter of flowers is added to the design. Rangoli making competitions are common during the festive season.

All for food?

A grand feast is prepared for the day. Known as the Onasadya meal, it is served on a Banana leaf and is an elaborate nine-course meal having at least four types of vegetable dishes.
Most families cook nine to eleven varieties of dishes for the Onasadya.

Speed of the boat, speed of the team

Another awaited ritual of Onam is the snake boat race. Nearly 100 people compete with each other in a boat riding competition.

The grand elephant procession

During Onam, elephants are decorated with flowers and ornaments. The elephants take a round of the area as the people cheer.

The culture through dance

A number of folk dances, plays and mask dances are performed

Ethnicity to celebrate

The community dresses up in traditional attire--handwoven sarees and mundus (a garment worn around the waist) with golden brocades are popularly worn

The joy of a match

Several games are also organised for Onam. Talappanthukali, a game played with a ball, tug of war are common favourites. People also indulge in Ambeyyal (archery).